2019 Seton Hall Skills in Cloud

Welcome to the June 14, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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job seeker at SXSW conference IT Unemployment Rate Estimated at 20-Year Low
The Wall Street Journal
Angus Loten
June 10, 2019

Technology trade group CompTIA said the U.S. information technology (IT) unemployment rate hit a two-decade low in May, at 1.3%. CompTIA's Tim Herbert said, "The demand for tech talent has reached historic levels." Tech staffing firm LaSalle Network CEO Tom Gimbel said the need for additional IT workers increases as apps move to the cloud and technology evolves. Many employers have been slow to develop programs for training new hires in programming languages such as Java and Python, adding to a surplus of IT openings that outstrips available talent. IT staffing firm Genesis10's Harvey Lippman suggested IT recruiters should consider regional outsourcing for certain jobs to access skilled tech workers across the country who may not be willing to relocate.

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Using Data to Predict Coastal Flood Risk
Kate Elizabeth Queram
June 12, 2019

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has developed an online tool that compiles water-level data and storm forecasts to help coastal residents prepare for floods. The Coastal Inundation Dashboard aims to give coastal residents the best chance to survive storm surge and rising water levels. The dashboard displays each water-level station as a turquoise pin on a map of the U.S. Areas with active flood risks are highlighted with pulsing red lines, and users can zoom in on specific locations. Each pinpoint displays the station number, observed water levels, the latest readings for wind speed and barometric pressure, and information on recent and upcoming high tides. The dashboard can also be used for recreation, as fishermen, boaters, and surfers can access the data to determine local tides.

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Stanford University researchers Dan Boneh, Monica Lam, Jen King, Chris Manning, James Landay, and David Mazieres Stanford Team Aims at Alexa, Siri With Privacy-Minded Alternative
The New York Times
John Markoff
June 14, 2019

Stanford University researchers are designing voice-operated virtual assistants that give users more control over personal information. Stanford's Monica Lam leads development of Almond, a virtual-assistant system running on decentralized software, connected by coding standards to let consumers choose where their data is stored and how it is shared. The researchers' biggest concern is that giving a major company such as Amazon or Apple monopolistic access to consumer data through their respective virtual assistants could erase what is left of online privacy. The Stanford team aims to make its software freely available to smartphone, computer, and consumer appliance users. The team also is pushing consumer-product manufacturers to link their devices to Almond via a Wikipedia-like service called Thingpedia, a shared database in which any manufacturer or Internet service could specify how its product or service would engage with the virtual assistant.

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ACM FCRC banner ACM FCRC Combines 13 Computing Conferences
June 12, 2019

Google's Geoffrey Hinton and Facebook's Yann LeCun—two of this year’s recipients of the ACM A.M. Turing Award—will present their Turing Lecture at the upcoming Federated Computing Research Conference (FCRC) June 22-28 in Phoenix, AZ. Hinton's portion of the presentation, "The Deep Learning Revolution," will be followed by LeCun's "The Deep Learning Revolution: The Sequel." FCRC brings together 13 affiliated research conferences and workshops in a week-long coordinated meeting, allowing for a strong research focus within each sub-discipline of computing, and facilitating communication between researchers in different fields of computer science and engineering. Other FCRC plenary speakers include University of Wisconsin-Madison’s James E. Smith, Harvard University’s Cynthia Dwork, Brown University’s Shriram Krishnamurthi, Columbia University’s Jeannette M. Wing, and Erik Lindahl of Sweden’s Stockholm University.

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Eliminating Infamous Security Threats
Norwegian SciTech News
Steinar Brandslet
June 7, 2019

Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and the University of Murcia in Spain have developed a way to reduce performance and energy costs and increase the security of computer systems targeted by speculative side-channel attacks. The security vulnerability appears when the microprocessor tries to guess how to handle such an attack; if it guesses incorrectly, it will undo any work and start over. However, the incorrect guesses leave traces that can be exploited by attacks such as Meltdown and Spectre to retrieve information through so-called side-channels. The new method delays part of the speculation and uses another form of speculation to predict the expected value. The researchers found the new method did not reduce the performance of the processors by more than 11%, and with only a 7% energy usage increase.

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IBM South Africa facility IBM Brings Its Quantum Computer Program to 16 African Universities
Jake Bright
June 12, 2019

IBM has launched its Quantum (IBM Q) computer program in Africa via a collaboration with South Africa's Wits University, with plans to extend the program to 15 more universities in nine countries. IBM said at the program's launch, "Q systems are designed to one day tackle problems...seen as too complex and exponential in nature for classical systems to handle," including challenges with financial data, minimizing global financial risk, and logistics optimization. The Q Africa program will focus on research areas such as drug discovery, based on Africa's genetic diversity; mining, finance, and natural resource management are potential future use cases.

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A Hugin drone being retrieved from the ocean after a test run offshore. Underwater Drones Nearly Triple Ocean Floor Data
Jeff Wise
June 7, 2019

Several projects now underway are using submersible drones to explore the ocean floor, thanks to increasingly sophisticated scanning technology. The Ocean Infinity seabed-exploration company has deployed underwater drones to find sunken ships, while two nonprofits hope to map the whole ocean floor by 2030; the Norwegian company Kongsberg Maritime produced the underwater drones for both projects. Kongsberg's Bjorn Jalving said the company's flagship Hugin drone’s onboard sensors cover five times the area of drones from 10 years ago, with detail expanded 10-fold. The drones also can transfer, process, and exchange data with remote command centers. The Seabed 2030 ocean-mapping project has enlarged the total surveyed seafloor area from 6% to 15% since 2017, and the University of New Hampshire's Larry Mayer said the drone-scanning effort should help gain new insights into climate change.

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Pictures of cows repeated across a range of paintings attributed to Jan Brueghel the Elder. From Brueghel to Warhol: AI Enters the Attribution Fray
David Adam
June 11, 2019

Art historians around the world are starting to utilize machine learning to provide empirical support for theories and ideas previously limited to the subjective eye of the beholders. For example, University of California, Berkeley researcher Elizabeth Honig used a database of more than 1,500 digitally reproduced Brueghel pictures to train an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm to pick out identical images of windmills in multiple paintings. Mathieu Aubry, a researcher at École des Ponts ParisTech in France, uses a technique called unsupervised deep learning, in which the algorithm is shown pictures and finds similarities for itself, to develop more practical applications of AI vision, such as for self-driving cars. At Rutgers University, researchers are using similar technology to map how artists’ styles are defined and develop over time. The project confirmed that shifts in artistic style could be analyzed and characterized according to binary characteristics.

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Startup Partners With Fiat Chrysler On Self-Driving Tech
Alexandria Sage
June 10, 2019

Self-driving car software startup Aurora will partner with Fiat Chrysler to develop autonomous platforms for commercial vehicles, which Aurora said will enable it "to offer a variety of solutions to strategic customers in logistics, transit, and other use cases." Aurora previously announced partnerships with Volkswagen, Hyundai Motor, and China's Byton all-electric vehicle automotive company, to develop and test self-driving systems for car manufacturers and fleet owners. In another alliance, Fiat Chrysler provides Alphabet's Waymo self-driving unit with Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans for Waymo's driverless fleet, which is currently operating in Arizona.

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Tool Can Pinpoint Origins of Gut's Bacteria
UCLA Newsroom (CA)
Matthew Chin
June 10, 2019

University of California, Los Angeles researchers have developed a faster technique to determine the origins of bacteria in microbiomes. The FEAST algorithm analyzes large volumes of genetic data in hours, while other tools take days or weeks. The source-tracking program returns the percentage of microorganisms that originated outside the microbiome, which should enable doctors to differentiate healthy people from those with a specific disease. FEAST also could be used to detect contamination in water resources or food supply chains. The researchers said FEAST is up to 300 times faster, and substantially more accurate, than other source-tracking tools; the software also processes much bigger datasets, and offers a more holistic view of bacteria that are present and their origins.

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A gallery visitor holding an example of Photo Wake-Up combined with augmented reality to illustrate how an abstract-art figure looks as if it is running out of a Picasso painting. 'Photo Wake-Up' Makes Still Photographs—and Picasso Paintings—Come Eerily Alive
Alan Boyle
June 10, 2019

Researchers at the University of Washington and Facebook have developed Photo Wake-Up, a software application that can bring still images to life. The major challenge is that the still image only depicts a single camera position, so some of the subject is not visible. The researchers solved this problem by identifying the body components of a figure in an image, matching those components to a virtual three-dimensional template, and creating a full-body model of the subject. The software then drapes colors and textures over the model, and projects it into the two-dimensional image. Said the University of Washington’s Ira Kemelmacher-Shlizerman, “Our work combines technical advancement on an open problem in the field with artistic creative visualization.”

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A photo of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election ballot. Even Voting Machine Company Pushes for Election Security Legislation
The Washington Post
Joseph Marks
June 10, 2019

Voting machine vendor Election Systems & Software (ES&S) has called on Congress to pass legislation requiring paper trails for all votes to protect against hacking, and vowed to stop selling paperless voting machines as the primary voting device in election jurisdictions. ES&S CEO Tom Burt wrote in an op-ed that such rules, along with a mandate for voting system security testing by outside researchers, are needed to restore "the general public's faith in the process of casting a ballot." Georgetown University's Matt Blaze thinks Burt's op-ed is a solid beginning, adding, "The voting system vendor community, which has long automatically denied even the most glaring security weaknesses, is starting to see the handwriting on the wall on demand for more secure voting system architecture."

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Indiana University to Acquire Fastest University-Owned AI Supercomputer
Indiana University
June 7, 2019

Indiana University (IU) and Cray have announced the university's acquisition of the fastest university-owned supercomputer in the U.S., to support research on artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics, and other science and medical areas. Big Red 200 will supplant the Big Red II Cray supercomputer when it becomes fully operational on IU's bicentennial anniversary in January 2020. The new system offers nearly 300 times the speed of the original Big Red supercomputer, and it will be the first of Cray's Shasta models to be set up at a U.S. university. Rick Stevens at the Department of Energy (DoE)'s Argonne National Laboratory said, "The Big Red 200 system...will enable IU to play a pioneering role in the development of applications, methods, and software for exascale computing as a partner of Argonne National Laboratory and DoE's Exascale Computing Project."

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